Assessing Safety, Risk, and Labor Issues Related to Heavy-Duty Automated Vehicles

Research Team: Mollie D'Agostino (lead), Marilia Ramos, Jiaqi Ma, and Junshan Zhang

UC Campus(es): UC Davis, UCLA

Problem Statement: Legislators and regulators currently face uncertainty about the safety challenges of connected and automated vehicles (CAVs), especially concerning human-system interaction. Human operators, including safety drivers and remote operators, play a significant role in system safety, depending on the operational design and capabilities of automated driving systems (ADS). While human errors can initiate or contribute to accidents by not responding to hazardous events, effective supervision and intervention can also enhance safety. Complexities associated with ADS systems are presenting challenges to an industry already grappling with issues like high driver turnover due to demanding working conditions and increased surveillance practices. In this intricate landscape, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to achieve more equitable, high-quality jobs in the commercial driving sector.

Project Description: This research project will address questions regarding safety drivers and remote operators in heavy-duty automated vehicles. It comprises two main tasks: one focusing on human-system safety and the other introducing a labor policy framework. The UCLA Risk Institute will lead the safety aspect, using a risk-informed approach to examine human-system interactions in automated vehicle operations. The research aims to determine the limitations of human supervision and intervention and the operational conditions that contribute to safer or riskier operations. UC Davis will conduct executive interviews with experts in heavy-duty labor policy and freight automation. They will also conduct a comprehensive legal analysis of risk assessment within relevant case law (covering both tort law and employment law), document emerging human-system safety standards in the U.S. and Europe, and conduct an extensive review of labor and labor economics literature. By integrating information from these various sources, the team will develop a comprehensive policy framework that considers the trade-offs in aligning heavy-duty automated-vehicle development with California’s objectives of enhancing safety, improving worker well-being, and generating economic benefits.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $220,000